A map, football compass and a traveller’s dream - The tale of Ernestina Abambila

This is Episode 2 of 'PLAYING BEYOND MY HORIZON', a series by Pulse Sports' Esther Owusua Appiah-Fei on Ghanaian players in the diaspora...

A map, football compass and a traveller’s dream - The tale of Ernestina Abambila

Have you ever heard of the exploits of Gulliver and his travel destinations around the world? It was nothing short of adventurous, eventful, and thrilling.

Long, long Ago in KojoKrom…

Three centuries later in a town called Kojokrom, Ernestina Abambila stares at her map with a wry smile. It’s 2013 and the azonto era is prevalent and has taken over Ghana like wildfire.

She packs her belongings, searches through her room, and finds her compass lying on the table beside her bed. She knew well within herself that her dreams would only be fulfilled beyond her horizon (Ghana).


She spreads the map on her well-laid bed and marks an “X” on the USA. After applying for an athletic scholarship, she had been accepted into the Mississippi Valley State University. Unbeknownst to her, she was going to have quite an eventful journey when she crossed this horizon.

Inside the plane, she harks back to when it all started; right there in Kojokrom, a town situated in Takoradi in the Western Region of Ghana.

Ernestina knew right from infancy that she was meant to be a professional footballer. How she was going to do it, however, she had absolutely no idea. But that amber of belief in her never quenched and rather fueled her passion for the game. To have that mindset at a time when society loathed the sight of a girl kicking balls on the streets with boys was beyond phenomenal and brave.

‘Tina’, as her friends call her, began her schooling at Prophet Nkansah Primary/JHS school. She joined Hasaacas Ladies at the age of eight and trained with the youth team. After Junior High School, she continued her education at Djabeni Senior High School. Here, she met great players like Janet Egyir, Jennifer Cudjoe, Mabel Eshun, and the like.


“I believe my footballing skills is a gift from God,” she retorts, as she laughs heartily. “I remember growing up, I used to cry to my papa. ‘Papa, I want boots to play football’ and he always bought them for me.”

As a fledgling footballer, one of Ernestina’s greatest motivations was Dansua, a former Hassacas Ladies player. Tina describes her as her godmother in football who helped her hone her skills. “Every day I went to her place and she taught me how to play football and I am so grateful to her for that,” she recalls.

In 2008, barely a year after she started training with Hasaacas Ladies, Enerstina made her debut against the senior women’s national team, the Black Queens at the Gyandu Park.

That game ended 2-0 against Hasaacas, but it was an “unforgettable” moment for Ernestina, mainly because she played against such an experienced and prestigious squad at the time.


A run-in-the-mill story you hear from most women footballers is that they began playing with the boys in their neighbourhood. Ernestina was not an exception.

“I used to play serious football with the boys in my hood,” she affirms. She attributes her technical abilities to playing for both Hasaacas and the boys in her neighbourhood.

After graduating from secondary school, Ernestina earned a call-up to the Black Maidens (U-17). This was for the 2014 U-17 World Cup in Japan. Enerstina’s journey to the US was set in motion after a fellow Ghanian player linked her to some coaches in the US. The said player was Gifty Ablah and she helped propel Ernestina to her next chapter in America.

Ernestina was particularly excited about the journey. She draws a lot of inspiration from Jennifer Cudjoe, who plays in the NWSL and for the Black Queens. According to her, seeing Jennifer go to the US to pursue her dreams motivated her to chart a similar path.

A trip to the unknown…


Ernestina was accepted into the Mississippi Valley State University on an athletic scholarship. She joined the school’s soccer team and she felt fulfilled because she was on the right trajectory to achieving her dream.

Narrating her experience in the change of timezones and demographic, Tina said it wasn’t easy adjusting at first but as time went on, she became acclimatized to the team and earned her place in the starting line-up.


In her sophomore, she transferred to Youngstown State University on another athletic scholarship. This was after the coach who helped her gain her first scholarship transferred to Youngstown State.


He helped her secure a scholarship in the school and continued her magnificent form there. She scored a decent number of goals for Mississippi but Youngstate unleashed the lioness in her. In 22 appearances, she impressively found the net 14 times.

Despite her burgeoning career and development, the year 2016 was a difficult period for the midfielder and would test Tina’s true passion for the game.

“In 2016, I had another national team call-up to the Black Princesses for the U-20 World Cup,” she narrates. “My school wanted me to finish the season with them. At the time, we had only four matches left in the season but I knew that if I honor my school’s request, then I'd miss out on the World Cup.”

Caught at the crossroads and presented with the option of either continuing with her education or representing her country, Enerstina took the high road of uncertainty and risk. Her dreams of becoming a professional football player were heavily tested at this point and any wrong decision could make or unmake her career. She gave it a long and hard thought before making a final decision.

Now, what are the odds of arriving in America and then finding yourself in Belarus? Quite a significant change, I presume. You might be wondering, why have we flown all the way from Ohio in the US, to Belarus, a country in Europe. That’s exactly what an adventure is about.


The life-changing decision & an adventure around Europe

Ernestina’s final decision was to honour the national team call-up and she played for the Black Princesses during the World Cup in Costa Rica. Ghana was eliminated in the group stages, unfortunately.

Ernestina’s patriotism, however, came with bitter consequences. Her compass led her back to Ohio, where she was greeted with her scholarship termination letter after failing to honour the school’s demands. However, something much better calmed the brewing storm which was about to dash her football dreams.

She signed her first professional contract in 2017 for FC Minsk in the Belarusian Women’s League and took the league by storm. Her meteoric rise in European women’s football was complemented by a return of 10 goals in 18 matches for the team.


She helped FC Minsk to win the league title and the Belarusian Women’s cup. Winning a double after losing her scholarship was a big deal for Ernestina. The battle lines were drawn and this time, she had decided to make a permanent mark in Europe.

More laurels came her way when she made history as the first Ghanaian to play in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. FC Minsk reached the knockout stages after winning all their group games but were unfortunately eliminated by FC Barcelona in the round of 32.

Though Ernestina was on an adventure to fulfil her dreams, she made sure to enjoy it as well and learn the culture of every country football transferred her to.

Her next stop on the map was the historical and mystical nation of Greece. However, the transfer fell through due to paper works. Ernestina then set her sights on the Swedish Women’s Premier League, also known as the Damallsvenskan. Over there, she made 19 appearances for Assi IF and was pivotal in their games.


After a year with Assi IF, Ernestina’s football compass led her to the land of Picasso and art - Spain. This was in January 2020. In Spain, she played for Sporting Club de Huelva, where she made four appearances in the Primera division. COVID hit later that year and her season was cut short.

“Spain was a difficult phase for me,’ she admits. “When you do well, you are praised but when you don’t then some people talk behind your back.” Ernestina added that the language barrier also didn’t help her situation there.

Poland came knocking in that same year and she moved to Medyk Konin, where she had an illustrious career in the Polish women’s league. She made 21 league appearances and scored three goals playing as a defensive midfielder. They finished fourth in the league after accumulating 45 points.

Her exploits in Poland earned her a big move to another powerhouse in the league. On July 2, 2021, she signed a two-year deal with Polish giants UKS SMS Lodz. Last season, Lodz finished second with 54 points.

Ernestina loves her current team and the winning mentality they share. “We are currently first on the league table and it has been a great experience so far,” she stated.


In January 2022, she was named the best foreign player in the Polish women’s league, known as Ekstraliga.

Ernestina has fond memories of her time in the Central European country. Unlike Spain, Polish people are nicer and aren’t racist, as she was told. She loves their food too, especially the rice and potatoes.

“Polish people are the nicest people I've ever come across,” she says with strong conviction.

Aside from her impressive club career, Ernestina has also enjoyed a great run in the various national teams. She was a key figure in the side that played at the U-17 World Cup in Costa Rica, where Ghana topped their group but were eliminated in the round of 16 by Italy.


Ernestina later gained another national team call-up to the Black Princesses in 2016. She featured at the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea and was also present at the 2018 edition in France.

Life with the Black Queens

In October 2017, Ernestina made her senior national team debut with the Black Queens at the Stade Auguste-Delaune II in Reim against France. The Black Queens, however, suffered a humiliating 8-0 drubbing. Prior to that, in July 2017, they were torn apart by Germany following an 11-0 scoreline.

This proved how inexperienced the squad was and the need for more such exposure against top-quality opponents. According to Ernestina, the Queens haven’t played any high-profile game outside Africa since. She suggested that the government must be proactive in helping the women’s game grow by organising more friendly matches against the top teams outside Africa, similar to what Nigeria are currently doing.


“I believe this will give the girls more exposure and will also give them a feel of other countries and how they play,” she rallied.

Ernestina also called on all girls in football to be hardworking and prayerful as well.

“Everything - God first, keep trusting in God, believe in Him, and never give up. You alone know the reason why you want to be a footballer so pursue it with your all and let God lead the way.”


Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: